Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. My beloved puppy, Riley, was sent to heaven. We were devastated to find out how much pain our sweet boy was in and amazed at his courage throughout his decline. Even though it hurt for him to move, he still met me at the door one last time, just as he has done faithfully for the last 8 years.
Riley came into my life in December 2005, at the end of my fall semester of my sophomore year at NC State. To be honest, I was avoiding studying for my quantitative chemistry final exam and had been perusing dog rescue websites. For some reason, I had in my mind that I needed a dog. This didn’t make a lot of sense at the time, seeing as how I was living in my sorority house with a NO PET policy. That didn’t stop my pursuit. I saw this picture on the Wake County Animal Shelter website, and couldn’t resist paying him a visit. He was listed on the website as “Scooter” and as I walked toward his small concrete cell, the staff member told me he came to the shelter fully groomed. The staff kept expecting his owners to find him, so they had kept him a little longer than most of the animals who were picked up.
I remember being startled by how excited he was to see me. He was full of energy, love, and had a sweet nature. I was expecting him to be a little timid, or shy, but he wasn’t at all. He jumped up on the bench next to me and sniffed and cuddled, but never licked or barked or got too aggressive. Even though we had just met, I knew we were meant for each other. I told the lady who worked there I wanted to take him home. She told me he was certainly lucky, as in just two days he was going to be put to sleep since he had stayed well over the typical time allotted.
I made a phone call to my parents. My dad answered, and I told him “Scooter’s” story. I needed their permission to keep him at their house for the next six months, until I moved out of the sorority house and into my own apartment. Dad said there was no way my mom would go for that. I put down the deposit at the shelter, but left “Scooter” until I could get a final answer from my mom. Mom called back and said “No, no, no, no, no.” In those exact words. Somehow, by the end of the conversation, I changed her mind and went back to pick up my sweet boy the very next day. The rest is, as they say, history.
There is no way to put into words the joy this little fellow brought me and my family over the last 8 years. He was the most loyal, loving, and joyful puppy. He settled right into our family and our hearts and we haven’t looked back since. He went through intense heart worm treatments when we brought him home from the shelter, and he immediately captured the hearts of our veterinary staff in Goldsboro, One of the veterinary technicians even nicknamed him “Lucky.” He brought a smile to everyone’s face. He was a constant in my life when things were chaotic. He was always by my side, during countless nights of studying, hours upon hours of riding back and forth from home and NCSU, and through all the ups and downs being an early twenty-something brings. He always kept me company when I was sick and tried his very best to make me happy (which he was very good at).
It wasn’t until my relationship with the Tar Heel that my sweet Riley began to embrace someone new in my life. The Tar Heel was initially pretty reserved about the idea of having a pet. He had met Riley and thought he was “ok,” but he was adamant that he didn’t want an inside pet. And even though Riley had always lived inside with me, the Tar Heel thought Riley would have to adjust to life “outdoors” once we got married. I knew that would never happen, but I told him I agreed anyway. Sure enough, when Riley moved in with us, the Tar Heel became obsessed with him and never, ever mentioned keeping him outside again. It was shocking how fast they became friends. After we got married, Riley’s “allegiance” shifted. He quickly became Dustin’s best friend and constant companion. I actually believe Riley came into my life to end up with Dustin. They formed a bond even deeper than the one I shared with my sweet little bear, and that brought me so much joy.
I held his paws and rubbed his little head and soft ears and talked to him about the wonderful loves ones he was about to meet in Heaven as the veterinarian administered the medications to put him to rest. I will probably always carry some guilt with me that we had to make a decision to end his life. But I am so grateful that I had 8 years and 3 beautiful months with my Ri-bear, and that the Lord granted us enough time with him that he could meet our sweet Emmy. He could have left this physical world 8 years ago at the shelter, in a room full of strangers and without the chance to bring me and my family so much joy. I am so thankful the Lord had a different plan for him.
We miss you, darling boy. I hope you are loving your new home in Heaven and look forward to seeing you again some day!